Disclaimer: Lost Odyssey is property of Mistwalker and Microsoft and whoever else owns the right.  The characters and places do not belong to me, only the ideas and themes of this story.  I'm making no money off of this.

Warning: Mild slash/yaoi content, spoilers for through the Eastern Ruins.

Of Virgins and Vagrants

Tolten wasn't used to all of this running around and camping and climbing over mountains and scaling the depths of mysterious ruins to do battle with giant ancient beasts.  He wasn't used to drawing his sword once an hour to battle off the magic-rabid beasts that seemed determined to take as many chunks of his flesh as they possibly could.  He wasn't used to running about with thieves and fugitives and pirates and madmen, all of whom never seemed to waste an opportunity to put him down in some way.  

Thank gods they'd returned to civilization!  Or close enough to it.  The tiny village on the coast boasted little more than an inn, a general store and a few farms, but the inn had beds!  Real beds, not those terrible cots like on the Nautilus or a straw filled pad unrolled on a stone cave floor.  Here there were  feather filled comforters and mattresses that Tolten felt he could sink into.  In all honesty, he knew that the beds weren't that nice, but they were a fair sight better than what he'd recently grown accustomed to.  And since the inn had a bar down below, Tolten had the room to himself.  At least for now.  Eventually the abrasive and rather loud man he was forced to share space with would return, and Tolten could only hope that it would be late in the night and that Jansen wouldn't be so drunk he couldn't make it to his bed.  

That had happened on the Nautilus more times than Tolten would like to remember.

In the meantime…

Tolten gazed at the copper tub of steaming water in the center of the room.  A bath.  A real bath.  Not a five minute shower under cold water.  Oh, the Nautilus had a hot water supply, of course.  But not by the time Tolten got to the shower room.  Even if nearly everyone was considerate with water usage, Jansen always managed to expend the last of it, leaving Tolten to wash as fast as he could and then shiver inside his armor for a half hour following.

But not tonight.  Tonight, Tolten was going to luxuriate in the hottest water he could stand for as long as he possibly could.  The lit fireplace between the two beds would keep the water hot, and from what Tolten had learned from Seth, Jansen would spend at least a few hours losing himself in drink.

Almost shivering in anticipation, Tolten began unbuckling and unfastening his armor.  He stripped down to his black tunic and trousers quickly, setting his armor aside for polishing later.  He'd do it in the morning, he didn't want to delay his bath any longer than he had to.

There were even a few oils and herb packets!  Tolten selected carefully, hemming and hawing over the oils for a good ten minutes before choosing a vial of sandalwood scented oils and adding a generous amount to the bathwater.  Fragrant scents filled the room and Tolten could stand it no longer.  He slipped out of his trousers and smallclothes and stepped into the bath.

This…is heaven.

Bonelessly, Tolten sank into the water.  It covered him almost to his neck and he swore he could already feel his muscles beginning to loosen and relax.  Had a bath ever felt so sinfully delightful?  He honestly didn't think so.  Leaning back, Tolten tipped his head over the lip of the tub and closed his eyes.  He had no idea when a bath would next come along, and he intended to savor every moment of this.  The way the hot water almost made his skin itch.  How the oil in the water made it feel almost like liquid satin.  

I wonder if its possible to become inebriated off of something like this?

He certainly felt as though he'd imbibed some sort of mood altering drink.  Everything melted away for a moment.  All his worries and his fears and his ridiculously highly strung nerves were some sort of fogged and distant memory.  There were no crazy pirates yelling at him, no frightening men glaring at him, no scantily clad women making him feel uncomfortable, and no obnoxious and raunchy idiot trying to carry on a conversation with him.  Even Gongora and Grand Staff had left his mind, granting him a rare respite from his own troubled thoughts.

Sadly, it was a woefully short respite.  After not twenty minutes of hovering somewhere on the edge of sleep inside the tub, the room door slammed open and Tolten was shaken out of his blissful state quite rudely.

"…don't know what her damn problem is!  We're both grown ups, we can….Oh boy, Goldilocks, you're a genius!"

"Jansen!"  Tolten attempted to hide in the water, curling himself downwards.  "I'm in the bath!"

"Yeah, I know.  Don't drain the water when you're done, I haven't had a soak in ages."  Jansen, ignoring the fact that Tolten was very much in the middle of bathing, simply kicked off his shoes and threw himself on his bed.

"Jansen!  I'm bathing!"

"I heard you the first time, geeze.  Plus, you know, you're doing it in the middle of the room.  Hey, don't let me interrupt you, your sparkliness - trust me, I know how hard it is to get a bath in around these people.  I've been trekking around with them a hell of a lot longer than you have."

Tolten flushed some, both from Jansen's casual taunting and the reminder that Tolten was very much still something of an outsider in this remarkably odd band of…whatever they were.  He was only here because Seth had taken some sort of pity on him.  No one else seemed to have any feelings for him other than grudging acceptance and mild distaste.  And he supposed he hadn't done much to change that.  But hardly anyone even acknowledged him!  Seth did, of course.  And Sed was always mocking him.  And he supposed Jansen did try, but all he ever did was complain.  Mostly.  Which it sounded like he'd been doing when he first stormed in.

"I didn't expect you to be back up so soon."  Tolten attempted to relax, but it was difficult.  Jansen wasn't paying any particular attention to him - he was on his bed with his back turned, one arm stretched out under his head.  Tolten hated doing things in front of people.  Even simple things like eating or brushing his hair.  He was just uncomfortable with being observed.  But it seemed he had no choice - he either had to abandon his beautiful bath, or deal with bathing in the same room as someone else.

"Huh?  Oh, yeah.  Didn't expect to be back up so soon."  Jansen sighed heavily and flopped over onto his back.  Tolten attempted to resume a position in the tub that looked somewhat natural.  He understood that here was an opportunity for conversation, and if he wanted to be accepted, he'd have to put forth an effort.  Even if he got the impression it would be more of Jansen complaining.  Still… how difficult could it be to nod sympathetically now and again?

"Is everything alright?"

"Oh, yeah.  No.  I dunno."  Jansen sighed heavily again and raked his hands through his hair.  "Seth chased me off again."

"Chased you off?"  Tolten was still coming to grasp all of the strange interpersonal relationships that ran through the group.  The relationship between Jansen and Seth was one he couldn't quite grasp.  It was quite clear from how Seth had talked about the man that she did like and respect him to a degree, but in their interactions….

"Eh, I was talking to Ming and Seth got all 'hurr, what are you doing?' and 'stop bugging her' and all that crap until I left.  What does she think is gonna happen?  I'm not some weird, random creep.  And it's not like I didn't spend a week pretty much alone with Ming without anything bad happening to her.  Did you know she made me sleep in a barn once?"

"Queen Ming?"  

"No!  Seth!"  Jansen sat up and leaned against the headboard.  "Back in Tosca.  All I was doing was having a friendly drink.  How was I supposed to know one pint would knock Ming out?  I wasn't trying to knock her out or anything!  But nooooo.  I had to sleep in the barn.  Why would Ming make me sleep in a barn?"

"If you were pestering her?"  Tolten offered.  

"I don't pester her!  We're…friends."

Well, this wasn't too terrible.  Conversing with Jansen, anyway.  "Yes, she does seem to like you."  But Queen Ming seemed to like most people, as far as Tolten could tell.  She was even rather kind to him.  She smiled at him, anyway.  Sometimes.  He only wished she'd wear more clothing….

"You think?"  Jansen leaned forward, suddenly eager.  "Why?  Did she say anything?  What did she say?"

Oh dear.  This was something that Tolten had no desire to get dragged into.  He hadn't spent a great deal of time with these people, but he'd spent enough to see the way Jansen followed the Queen of Numara around like a lovesick puppy.  

"No.  Why ever would she say anything to me?"

"I dunno.  She's a queen, you're a king.  Kinda.  You're the one who said she liked me!"

"She doesn't kick you."  Tolten shrugged.  "I was honestly just trying to make conversation."

"Oh."  Jansen flopped back against the headboard again, his hands behind his head.  "Well, that was a waste of breath then."

It was Tolten's turn to sigh.  He truly had been attempting to make conversation.  He hadn't realized just how interested Jansen was in what the queen may or may not think of him.  Which was sad, in a way.  However much Ming humored him and was friendly towards him, it wasn't as though Jansen had any sort of chance at wooing her.  He was…well, 'common' barely began to describe it.  Which was perfectly fine in a person, but a man who wished to court a queen?  Assuming Jansen wished to court her and not just take her to bed.

Either way, it was nothing but a pipe dream.

"You do understand…it doesn't matter what her feelings for you are."  Tolten tried to make his voice gentle and wondered if perhaps he should have just kept his mouth shut.  But if Jansen was harboring any false delusions, someone had to say something.  For both his and the queen's sake.  And perhaps it was a way to…attempt to make friends.  Jansen was certainly a strange sort for a friend, but he was mostly a good person.  And at least it was a topic of conversation that Tolten was familiar with.  The constraints and protocols of royalty were probably the only thing he was certain of.

"Whaddya mean?"

"She's the queen of Numara.  And you're…a wandering mage."  Among other things, Tolten mentally added.  But there was no need to draw attention to the fact that the other man was a thieving, boozing, womanizing con-man.  If Jansen even was still all of those things - Tolten hadn't known the man personally when he worked for Gongora, but he knew of him.

"Yeah.  I know."  It was the first time that Tolten hadn't heard some sort of animation in Jansen's voice.  Or seen it on his face.  He was just sitting on his bed, hands folded behind his head, looking at the wall with a curiously quiet expression.  Tolten, uncomfortable now, reached for a towel and stepped out of the bath.  He dried and pulled on his nightshirt as quickly and discreetly as he could, sparing a glance at Jansen out of the corner of his eye every few moments.  The older man wasn't paying him any attention.  Yes, he certainly should have kept his mouth shut.

"Jansen…"  Tolten dropped the towel from his hair and took a seat on his own bed.

"Nah, don't bother.  I know you're gonna apologize and you don't really have anything to apologize about.  I know she's a queen.  An immortal queen.  She's beautiful and smart and sexy and powerful and a guy like me's got nothing to offer her.  But she is my friend, you know?  And I'm lucky to have that.  Hell, I'm lucky that I didn't get my head cut off the first time I met her.  I'm a guy who counts his blessings.  And it's not like she…I mean, she lets me flirt and stuff like that and I'm pretty sure she flirts back, and it works.  I guess I'm just trying to say that I'll take what I can get and I know I'm damn lucky for it."

"I see."  Tolten folded his hands between his knees, unable to think of anything else to say.  Jansen's response had surprised him.  He hadn't expected such depth and sanity from a man who's vocabulary seemed to be comprised of nothing but complaints and rude jokes.  

"You done with the bath, Sparkles?"

Tolten nodded.  And then looked away when Jansen got to his feet and began disrobing.  In a way, the situation was more sad than Tolten had originally believed.  

"Aren't you…lonely?"

"Huh?"  The rustle of fabric stopped for a moment and Tolten risked a glance towards the bath.  Jansen still had his trousers on, at least, and had paused in undressing to talk.

"You said that you're happy with what little you have.  But you do want more, don't you?"  The whole concept of wooing and courting and bedding and falling in love was mostly just speculation on Tolten's part, but he knew enough to understand that Jansen's happiness could only be bittersweet at best.  Could anyone truly be happy, forever at the edge of their heart's desire?  Forever watching and wanting and knowing that it could never be?  

"I'm actually not going to bother even answering that,"  Jansen replied.  "And no, I'm not lonely.  Why would I be?  I never get a damned minute to myself."

"I meant in regards to Her Majesty."

"You wanna know something?  About me and Ming?"  Jansen smiled a bit then, a small thing that lit his eyes.  An honest smile, something Tolten believed to be rare on this man.   "Since she joined up with us, there hasn't been a single day that we've been apart.  I mean…everything's gone to hell and back like ten times since I met her, but it doesn't matter.  There hasn't been a night that I haven't said 'goodnight' to her or a morning I haven't said 'good morning'.  And when we were trapped in Gohtza, I slept next to her.  I mean, not like…right next to her, but…I could've reached out and touched her.  I didn't, but I could've.  I got to lay there and listen to her breathing next to me while she was asleep.  That goes under the 'damn lucky' heading, too."

Tolten could only nod.  Now he truly felt terrible for broaching the subject in the first place.  A pity that Ming was a queen - this side of Jansen was far from the obnoxious fool that Tolten was used to.  Anyone would be lucky in their own right to lay claim to affection that ran so deep and true.

"I must admit…I'm surprised by your response."  And somewhat touched.  Maybe it was better that he had spoken up.  Jansen had shared this with him, after all.  Perhaps they were beginning to broach something of a friendship.

"Oh wait,"  Jansen's tone changed suddenly, animation returning to his voice.  "Were you just asking me if I'm moody cause I'm not getting laid?"

And whatever bonding moment they'd been sharing was gone now.  Tolten flushed, averting his eyes as Jansen dropped his pants.  He kept them averted until he heard the splash of water that signaled Jansen was safely in the tub.

"Not exactly, though I suppose that's part and parcel of it."  Intimacy did fall under the category of 'more'.  He truly had been thinking more along the lines of the romantic, but he supposed it was a good point as well.  Jansen was a sexual man, at least from the few stories that Tolten had heard.  Was he truly content with what amounted to little more than courtly love?

"Nah, not moody.  I mean…I'm frustrated as hell, but…whatever.  I've got two hands."

"I would have preferred if you hadn't offered confirmation as to why you so often spend an hour or more locked in the restroom."  The conversation was going in a terrible direction and rather quickly.  And it didn't help at all that Jansen was nude.  In the bath, but still nude.  

"Well, I can always do it in our room, but I figured....Oh come on,  it's a joke!  Besides, what's the big deal?  Like you've never done it."

"That's!  I…you…that's hardly relevant!"  Tolten knew his voice was painfully high and strained, but he didn't care.  Jansen had no right to speculate on…on his personal habits!  His expression had slowly crept further and further into the realms of horror as Jansen continued to speak.

"What?  It's relevant to the conversation.  You brought the whole thing up in the first place, asking me if I needed to get laid."  Jansen paused.  "Were you coming on to me? I don't blame you if you were, but if you were, that was pretty pathetic.  Gutsy, cause you went right for the main course, but still pretty pathetic on the delivery."

"I was most certainly not propositioning you!"  And Seth said I was lucky as I needn't worry about Jansen's lechery!  This certainly qualified as lechery in Tolten's book.

"Wow, easy there.  Don't want to strain your pretty voice or anything.  Just wondering."

"Why would you even think that?"  That was what the once-King of Uhra couldn't understand.  How on earth had Jansen leapt to that conclusion, considering the basis of their conversation?  "Why would I proposition you knowing full well you're interested in women?"

"Cause I'm just that irresistible."  Jansen turned his head and grinned.  Well, it had certainly taken longer than usual for the mage's ego to make itself known.  "And I could be into guys, too.  You don't know.  You don't know me."

Tolten took a few moments before responding.  He took a deep breath and closed his eyes before plunging forward.  "Are you?"  He had to ask.  He knew full well that Jansen was simply dangling bait before him, but he took it anyway.  

"Eh."  Another shrug.  And now Tolten found he couldn't stop glancing over at Jansen.  Who didn't seem at all inclined to sink fully into the bath.  No, he had to sit upright with his arms on either side, shoulders and upper chest damp and gleaming in the firelight…

"Eh?"  At least conversation was distracting.  The very last thing that Tolten wanted was to be ogling Jansen Friedh in the bath.  

"I like women better.  I mean…any port in a storm, I guess, and it's not like I don't like it, but…"  Jansen huffed and shifted in the tub, and Tolten flushed as a flash of water slicked abdomen flashed into view.  "It's like…wine and punch.  I've got nothing against punch, I'll drink it if it's all that's around, but give me a choice and I'll take the wine every time."

"I…see."  If nothing else, Tolten was learning that there was a great deal more to Jansen than he'd originally thought.

"What about you?"


"Whaddya like? Wine or punch?"

Oh dear.

"It's hardly any of your business."  Ah, the fire needed tending.  Tolten moved to stand before it and adjust the logs, his back to Jansen and the bath.

"Okay, see, this is how talking works.  I tell you something about me, you tell me something about you, we discuss…it's not hard.  Even Kaim manages it sometimes."

"I…don't know."  That seemed a safe enough answer.  

"How can you not know?"

Tolten cleared his throat.  At least here he had an answer.  He strove to make his voice arch and regal, to end the conversation on this note.  Discussing intimate relations with a naked man in a bath went far beyond merely awkward.  "One can hardly choose between wine and punch when one has tasted neither."

He didn't want to know what the sudden and rather forceful splashing behind him was.  He really didn't.

"You're…oh geeze.  Oh…You're a virgin?  Ha!  Are you serious?"

"It isn't funny, and yes I'm serious."  Tolten turned, almost afraid of what he'd see.  But it was only Jansen leaning forward in the tub, laughing.  At him, of course.

"I'm sorry!  I am, I just…man, really?  A pretty young guy like you?  And you're rich on top of it, famous, royalty….I figured you'd be beating them off with a stick.  Or just plain beating them off, if that's your thing."

"Yes, well, the sad truth of the world is that looks and wealth only carry a person so far.  And it isn't as though I had much opportunity, all things considered."  Tolten bit at his lower lip.  "Grand Staff took a great deal of my time."

Besides that, he was nervous.  He had his share of fantasies and amorous dreams, as did anyone, but he had never acted on them.  The servant girls in the palace had watched him grow up.  They knew he was wealthy and attractive, but they knew him.  They didn't see a rich, handsome young man, they saw a weak little boy who cried too easily.  And they knew that the only reason he was allowed to live as a wealthy citizen in Uhra was because he wasn't worth exiling or executing or doing much of anything about.  Besides, they snickered and teased behind his back.  

He doubted anyone saw him in a sexual light, anyway. 

"Ah, right.  Still…you gotta know what you like.  Or at least have a pretty good idea.  You can't honestly tell me that you've made it to…how the hell old are you?  Sixteen?"

"I'm nineteen, thank you very much."

"You can't tell me that you've made it to nineteen without ever thinking about sex."

"Of course I think about it!"  How in the name of all that was holy had the conversation made it here?  He had liked it much better when they were philosophizing or Jansen's tragic love life. The whole business of sex was one Tolten tried to avoid thinking about when in company.  It didn't work always, of course, and the mind had a tendency to wander…. But it was personal, and it was awkward to be discussing it with Jansen of all people!  The simple fact was that he honestly didn't know what he wanted.  Sometimes he thought about women and sometimes about other men.  Mostly other men, if he was being entirely honest with himself.  But a king could hardly be a lover of men!

Besides, most people thought he was already.  Did he have to fall short of every expectation?

"So what do you think about?"  Jansen wasn't going to drop the subject.  Tolten finally whirled around, fire poker in hand.

"Whatever strikes my fancy at the time!  I told you that I didn't know, and I mean that I don't know!  I haven't sorted out any sort of preference, and it's honestly the least of my concerns these days!  The entire world is at war, my country is in ruins, the man I loved as a father has used and betrayed me, I financed the destruction of civilization as we know it, I'm in the middle of nowhere with a band of madmen who hate me and I'm very certain I'm going to die within the next handful of weeks!  The fact that I'm going to die a virgin who doesn't know whether he likes women or men doesn't even warrant mention on that scale of concern!"

Tolten's shoulders were heaving and he was breathing heavily by the time he'd finished his little tirade.  Jansen was gawking at him, mouth hanging open and eyes wide.  It was going to escalate into a fight. wasn't it?  Yelling at first, but….

"Your highness… Nobody hates you.  And you're not gonna die a virgin."

The tone of the other man's voice was surprising.  He wasn't yelling, and he didn't sound at all upset that Tolten had just unleashed a verbal fury upon him.  If anything, he sounded almost amused.  Wonderful.  I attempt to be intimidating and I manage vaguely entertaining.  

Perhaps saying that everyone 'hated' him had been a bit dramatic.  But it felt that way sometimes.  He turned back to the fire, head hung slightly.

"Let's be realistic," he countered.  "I'm not particularly well liked.  And considering the danger we're rushing off into…."

"Seth likes you,"  Jansen pointed out.  "And so do I."

"No you don't!"  What a bald-faced lie!  "You don't even call me by my name!"

"So?  You do hear me when I talk to pretty much everybody else, right?"  Jansen was moving in the bath again, and Tolten kept his eyes on the fire.  "That's just me, pretty bo…Tolten."

"I suppose."  He was still trembling some from his outburst, and his words rang again in his mind.  He didn't want to die.  He knew he was going to, and probably soon, but the idea made him sick to his stomach.  All he supposed he could really hope for was to try and right the wrongs he'd committed when in Gongora's hands.  "Are you afraid?  Of dying here, far from home in the wilderness?"

"Eh.  Don't really have a 'home', so…not so much.  I mean, I know my chances aren't great, but whatever.  I'm not dead yet."

"And yet you seem certain that I won't perish."

"Whoa, hey, I didn't say you won't die!  You could totally die tomorrow. I just meant you won't die a virgin."

"Thank you for the vote of confidence,"  Tolten said, astounded to find himself chuckling, "but that's not quite something you can promise."

"Sure it is,"  Jansen responded, and Tolten froze at the low, husky quality the other man's voice had taken on.  "C'mere."

It was as though his body was acting without any command from his mind.  While his mind was shouting 'don't turn round, for the love of the gods!' his feet were already moving.  He was terrified of what he might see, but curious as well.  He wasn't so silly and naive as to not understand what Jansen meant.  It was a very clear invitation.  Proposition.  Whatever. And he couldn't quite banish the lingering memory of Jansen's arms and shoulders, damply glistening in the firelight…

But it was Jansen.  Loud, rude, uncouth, prickly Jansen Friedh.  Handsome, yes, but also more than a bit of a brute.  And not terribly discreet.  Besides, Tolten had no desire to simply jump into bed with the first person who offered him a…a pity bedding!  He wasn't about to over-romanticize anything, but this was almost tawdry.  And certainly meaningless.  

But Jansen did look appealing when Tolten's eyes found him.  He had turned and now he leaned on the edge of the tub, arms folded, chin resting on one wrist.  Tolten could see the gentle slope of his broad back leading to his waist before the water of the bath hid the rest.  Barely.  

"Jansen, I…don't think it would be a good idea."  No, not a good idea at all.  It was foolish and impulsive and Tolten knew he'd only regret it.  But will you regret dying without ever knowing another's touch more?  He didn't know.  And maybe it didn't matter because Jansen had already seen the want that flickered in his eyes, hesitantly and nervously.  Because there was want there, simple physical want that Tolten couldn't deny.  Jansen was attractive, the conversation had centered heavily on intimate relations, Tolten had been ruminating on whether or not he was sexually appealing…of course there was want in his eyes. 

And his body, as well, because he was following the command despite his protest.  

"Your problem is you're thinking too much,"  Jansen urged.  "Don't think.  It's not about thinking, it's about doing."

"What about Qu…?"

Jansen shook his head and leaned forward, up and out of the bath.  Water dripped off of his body, drawing attention to the play of light muscles beneath dusky, fire-bronzed skin.  Tolten could feel stirrings, against all his better judgement.  

"We already went over that, alright?"  

Tolten only nodded, feeling at a loss.  He was sitting on the edge of his bed now, leaning forward himself, towards Jansen.  The mage was smiling, a seductive little smile that made Tolten's breath hitch just the slightest.  And his eyes reflected the fire.  They were blazing cinnabar and Tolten found himself momentarily lost in them.  The once-king was frozen in place, unable to look or turn away. The water in the bath sloshed and spilled as Jansen pushed himself further out of the tub, sounding loudly on the wooden floor of the bedroom.  Tolten felt it across his foot a moment before Jansen's lips met his.

It was a soft and quiet kiss, warm and damp.  Tolten closed his eyes, just feeling the way Jansen's mouth moved very gently against his own.  He had a nice mouth.  Supple and firm and currently unassuming.  It felt quite nice, actually.  A touch awkward, as Tolten tried to tilt his head and avoid bumping noses, but quite nice.  And if simply kissing Jansen was this pleasant, it was very possible that everything that generally followed kissing would be just as pleasant.  If not more so.  

The kiss deepened ever-so-slightly.  The barest hint of parted lips against his own, a ghostly whisper of tongue-tip, a damp hand reaching up to come to rest on his neck….

Tolten pulled away.


"I'm sorry."  He stumbled backwards, shaking his head.  "I'm sorry.  I…I don't think I can…."

As pleasant and enticing as the kiss had been, there had been nothing in it.  Nothing real, anyway.  There was care and kindness and hints of lust, but that was as deep as it went. Jansen had no particular fondness for him - he was pretty and he was there and the opportunity had presented itself.  He was just 'a port in a storm', as the mage had said so eloquently earlier.  

"Geeze, if I'd known you were this skittish, I would've put some clothes on first!"  Jansen was watching him, curious and amused and perhaps a bit perplexed.  "What's wrong?"

"I'm…just not ready," he managed.  "I honestly do appreciate the offer, really I do…."  But he couldn't, in good conscience, continue.  Not with this man who loved another, wanted another in his bed.  Jansen wanted him, yes, but it wasn't the same.  For the other man, this was simply a good idea that had popped into his mind and most likely seemed to benefit them both.  It was logical, but Tolten had no desire to lose his innocence on a whim of logic.  He wasn't holding out for love, but at the very least someone who cared about him and wanted to be with him because of him.  

And wasn't in love with someone else.

"Hey, relax.  Take a deep breath, head between your knees, all that stuff.  Why don't I get out of the bath?"

"I think that would be a good idea."  Tolten turned and attempted to compose himself as Jansen removed himself from the tub.  Oh gods, this was a disaster, wasn't it?  Was he being foolish?  What if he did die tomorrow, would he regret not taking Jansen's offer?  It was an unfortunate truth that this could well be his last (and only) chance to experience physical closeness with another person.  

"Uh…so…if I really freaked you out, I'm sorry."  Jansen took a seat on Tolten's bed, now wrapped in his sleeping robes.  "I wasn't trying to.  I just figured…you know.  We could give each other a hand, so to speak.  Help each other out."

"I know."  Tolten cleared his throat, feeling young and stupid.  "It's my fault."

"It's nobody's fault.  And I'm not pissed off that you shot me down or anything.  I'm not taking it personally, don't worry."

"No, but I imagine you'll delight in teasing me for some time."  Not to mention anyone Jansen told!  Sudden fear seized Tolten and he had to bite his inner cheek to stop from showing his panic.  How long before everyone knew? Oh good gods, what would Seth say?

"I'm not gonna tease you.  And you know, I'm like half drunk anyway, so chances are…I won't even remember this in the morning. Yeah.  And if I do, I'll probably just assume it was some kinda whacky dream.  So it's not like I'd…you know.  Tell anybody about this.  Like anybody'd believe me, anyway. I mean, come on.  Me?  Making out in a bathtub with the prodigal king of Uhra?  Yeah, that doesn't sound like real life to me.  Must've dreamed it."

It was a kindness that Tolten still had trouble accepting.  He watched Jansen from under lowered eyelashes, wanting to trust but not certain if he could.  You're being a child, he chastised himself.  What would Jansen have to gain by blabbing this little encounter to everyone?  

"Anyway, I should probably turn in.  You too, Goldilocks.  We get to hit the old dusty trail again in the morning, whether we want to or not."  Jansen stood and clapped him on the shoulder, amicable and proper.  

"Of course."  Tolten nodded.  Jansen's hand on his shoulder was warm and heavy, and impulsively he covered it with his own.  He looked up, meeting the mage's eyes.  "Jansen…"


"Thank you."

The older man only squeezed his shoulder before heading to his own bed.  Tolten flicked off the light beside his bed and climbed under the covers, still flushed and warm from the kiss.  The bed was soft, he was relaxed, and tomorrow was still a night away.  There would be danger and bloodshed and madness and hours upon hours on the road. Perhaps he wouldn't live to see another night after the dawn came, but at least he'd had a hot bath, a soft bed to sleep in, and his first kiss.

That was good enough to go to sleep on.